|Publication number||US7350139 B1|
|Application number||US 09/595,622|
|Publication date||Mar 25, 2008|
|Filing date||Jun 16, 2000|
|Priority date||Jun 16, 2000|
|Also published as||US20080072170|
|Publication number||09595622, 595622, US 7350139 B1, US 7350139B1, US-B1-7350139, US7350139 B1, US7350139B1|
|Inventors||Geoffrey W. Simons|
|Original Assignee||American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (47), Non-Patent Citations (6), Referenced by (66), Classifications (11), Legal Events (7)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
In general, the present invention relates to computer software for filling out forms, and, in particular, to a method and system for completing one or more fields of an electronic form.
Individual computing is continuously increasing. In general, a typical computer user has access to multiple computer systems, many of which are connected to external computer networks, such as the Internet. For example, users may have access to the Internet at work, at school, at home or via a portable device. Additionally, users may utilize establishments that rent computer systems and provide Internet access on a time basis, such as by the hour.
By connecting to the Internet, a user can access a variety of information available on networks such as the Word Wide Web (“Www” or “Web”). The presentation of the information generally ranges from static textual and graphic images to more interactive presentations requiring action and/or information from the user. Accordingly, a user may repeatedly access the same information on the Internet from a variety of computer systems dependent on the time of day and the proposed use (e.g., business vs. personal).
As computer network use increases, the amount of information that is transmitted between computer systems within the common network also increases. For example, within a network such as the Internet, WWW browser application programs on a computer system allow a user to view and extract information from the Internet that is provided by one or more content provider computer systems. One manner of communicating information from a user computer system to the content provider requires the user to actively complete and submit one or more data fields on a Web site, generally referred to as an electronic form. Often, the fields on the form request standard information such as a user name, a user password and/or additional contact information. Additionally, with respect to electronic commerce, or e-commerce, Internet applications, the requested information can include credit information and user-specific preferences, such as sizes, color preferences, style preferences, and/or a shipping address.
Many content providers require a user to fill out an electronic form to access their information or to utilize the service being offered. If numerous Web sites require the user to fill out the same information or if a user utilizes the same Web site repeatedly, having to fill out the same information each time, the completion of electronic forms becomes a time consuming and inefficient process.
One conventional method of assisting a user in filling out an electronic form entails having the user load and utilize a client-based application program on the user's computer system to assist the user in completing the electronic form fields. In this method, the user installs the client-based application program into the user's computer system and inputs his or her personal information. The information is then stored locally on the user's computer. Accordingly, when the user is required to fill out an electronic form, the client-based application program is initiated and the fields corresponding to the user's input are completed. Some conventional client-based application programs require an affiliation with the content provider to properly complete the form. Other client-based application programs provide the user with a display of their user information, which the user selectively transfers to the electronic form, and do not require any affiliation with the electronic form provider.
Another method for assisting a user in filling out an electronic form is referred to as a “transactor” method which entails a third party computer system directly interacting with the electronic form provider. Unlike the client-based application program, the transactor method does not require the user to install or maintain software on the user computer system. Instead, personal information items are inputted and stored in a database on a remote, third party server. To transfer the information, the user accesses the third party server by activating a connection to the third party transactor system. The transactor system then establishes a communication link with the content provider and transmits the user information to the content provider.
There are, however, deficiencies associated with both the client-based and transactor methods. The client-based method requires a user to install and maintain software on his or her computer system. As mentioned previously, however, a user may utilize two or more computer systems on a frequent basis. Accordingly, the client-based method would require the user to install the client-based software on each system. Additionally, the user would have to maintain user information on each computer system as well. From a security perspective, if more than one user utilizes the same computer system, the user's private information may be accessible by an unauthorized person using the same computer system. Moreover, another deficiency associated with the client-based application method is that users are often restricted from installing and maintaining unauthorized (nonstandard) software on the computer systems they use. Accordingly, a user utilizing multiple computer systems could be restricted as to which computer systems are allowed to run the client-based application program.
Although the transactor method attempts to overcome this deficiency by not requiring the user to install or maintain software on the user system, the transactor method requires cross-communication between application program windows. It is generally known that such communication may present a security risk of the user's information. Additionally, cross-communication between two applications may be more time consuming and reduces the benefit of the method.
Based on the above-mentioned deficiencies in the related art, there is a need for a system and method for completing electronic forms that does not require a user to install or maintain software on a specific user computer system and that can be utilized by a user from any number of computer systems. Additionally, there is a need for a system and method for completing electronic forms that does not require a cross-communication of the user information.
Described generally, a method for completing an electronic form is provided. In accordance with the method, an electronic form having one or more fields to be completed is obtained. A user profile containing user data corresponding to the one or more fields of the electronic form is also obtained. Upon the transfer of the user profile to the electronic form, at least one of the fields of the electronic form is completed with the user data.
Further described, a system and method for utilizing a drag and drop technique to complete electronic forms are provided. A document browser computer accesses one or more electronic forms provided by a document server via an active Internet browser application window. A URL link to a fill server is established and a separate application window is created on the document browser computer display. A user ID, password and signature of the electronic form are passed from the document browser computer to the fill server. The fill server creates a fill bundle embodied in shippable code corresponding to a merger of raw user data from a user profile and a form map derived from the electronic form signature. The fill bundle is returned to the document browser computer and presented on the document browser computer's display as an icon within an open fill bundle window. The fill bundle icon is selected and dragged from the fill bundle window to the electronic form application window causing the shippable code to be executed. Accordingly, one or more fields on the electronic form are completed and the form may be submitted to the requesting provider.
In accordance with other aspects of the invention, a system, a method for generating a graphical display, a method for creating a user profile, and one or more computer-readable mediums containing computer-readable instructions are provided.
The foregoing aspects and many of the attendant advantages of this invention will become more readily appreciated as the same become better understood by reference to the following detailed description, when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:
As described above, aspects of the present invention are embodied in a WWW site accessible via the Internet. As is well known to those skilled in the art, the term “Internet” refers to the collection of networks and routers that use the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (“TCP/IP”) to communicate with one another. A representative section of the Internet 20 is shown in
The Internet has recently seen explosive growth by virtue of its ability to link computers located throughout the world. As the Internet has grown, so has the WWW. As is appreciated by those skilled in the art, the WWW is a vast collection of interconnected or “hypertext” documents written in HyperText Markup Language (“HTML”), or other markup languages, that are electronically stored at “WWW sites” or “Web sites” throughout the Internet. A WWW site is a server connected to the Internet that has mass storage facilities for storing hypertext documents and that runs administrative software for handling requests for those stored hypertext documents. A hypertext document normally includes a number of hyperlinks, i.e., highlighted portions of text which link the document to another hypertext document possibly stored at a WWW site elsewhere on the Internet. Each hyperlink is associated with a Uniform Resource Locator (“URL”) that provides the exact location of the linked document on a server connected to the Internet and describes the document. Thus, whenever a hypertext document is retrieved from any WWW server, the document is considered to be retrieved from the WWW. As is known to those skilled in the art, a WWW server may also include facilities for storing and transmitting application programs, such as application programs written in the JAVA® programming language from Sun Microsystems, for execution on a remote computer. Likewise, a WWW server may also include facilities for executing scripts and other application programs on the WWW server itself.
A consumer or other remote user may retrieve hypertext documents from the WWW via a WWW browser application program. A WWW browser, such as Netscape's NAVIGATOR® or Microsoft's Internet Explorer, is a software application program for providing a graphical user interface to the WWW. Upon request from the consumer via the WWW browser, the WWW browser accesses and retrieves the desired hypertext document from the appropriate WWW server using the URL for the document and a protocol known as HyperText Transfer Protocol (“HTTP”). HTTP is a higher-level protocol than TCP/IP and is designed specifically for the requirements of the WWW. It is used on top of TCP/IP to transfer hypertext documents between servers and clients. The WWW browser may also retrieve application programs from the WWW server, such as JAVA applets, for execution on the client computer.
Referring now to
Also connected to the Internet 20 is a fill server computer system 34. As will be explained in greater detail below, the fill server 34 is in communication with a form map server 36 having access to a form database 38 containing one or more electronic form maps. Additionally, the fill server 34 is also in communication with a user information server 40 having access to a user information database 42 containing one or more user profiles. As would be generally understood by one skilled in the relevant art, the fill server 34 may be remote from the form map server 36 and/or the user information server 40. Moreover, the combination of one or more computer systems to provide the functions of the either the fill server 34, the form map server 36 and/or the user information server 40 is considered to be within the scope of the present invention.
The present invention is directed toward the acquisition, by a document browser computer 30, of one or more electronic forms from a document server 32. Additionally, the present invention is further directed toward the generation of a fill bundle icon corresponding to the merging of user specific information with the required data fields of the electronic form. Utilizing a graphical interface, the fill server 34 generates the fill bundle icon within the WWW browser 70 of the document browser computer 30 that can be selected, dragged and deposited on a graphical window containing the electronic form to automatically complete the fields on the form corresponding the user data stored in the user information database 42.
As shown in
The document server 32 also includes a processing unit 46, a display 50, and a mass memory 52. The mass memory 52 generally comprises a random access memory (“RAM”), a read-only memory (“ROM”) and a permanent mass storage device, such as a hard disk drive, tape drive, optical drive, floppy disk drive, or combination thereof. The memory 52 stores an operating system 56 for controlling the operation of the document server 32. It will be appreciated that the operating system component 56 may comprise a general-purpose server operating system as is known to those of ordinary skill in the art, such as UNIX, LINUX™, or Microsoft WINDOWS NT®.
The memory 52 also includes a WWW browser 54, such as Netscape's NAVIGATOR® or Microsoft's Internet Explorer browsers, for accessing the WWW. Additionally, the memory 52 further includes one or more electronic documents 58 which are to be provided to users on the WWW via the WWW browser 54. It will be appreciated that these components may be stored on a computer-readable medium and loaded into memory 52 of the document server 32 using a drive mechanism associated with the computer-readable medium, such as a floppy, CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive. The memory 52, network interface 44, display 50, and modem 48 are all connected to the processing 46 unit via one or more buses. As would be generally understood, other peripherals may also be connected to the processing unit in a similar manner.
As shown in
The document browser also includes a processing unit 62, a display 66, and a memory 68. The memory 68 generally comprises a random access memory (“RAM”), a read-only memory (“ROM”) and a permanent mass storage device, such as a disk drive. The memory 68 stores an operating system 74 for controlling the operation of the document browser computer 30. In once actual embodiment of the invention, the operating system 74 provides a graphical operating environment, such as Microsoft Corporation's WINDOWS® graphical operating system in which activated application programs are represented as one or more graphical application windows with a display visible to the user. The memory 68 also includes a WWW browser 70, such as Netscape's NAVIGATOR® or Microsoft's Internet Explorer browsers, for accessing the WWW. As will be explained in greater detail below, the WWW browser 70 includes a link 72 corresponding to a URL of a fill server 34 in accordance with the present invention. It will be appreciated that these components may be stored on a computer-readable medium and loaded into the memory 68 of the document browser computer 30 using a drive mechanism associated with the computer-readable medium, such as a floppy, CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive. The memory 68, network interface 60, display 66, and modem 64 are all connected to the processing 62 unit via one or more buses. As would be generally understood, other peripherals may also be connected to the processing unit in a similar manner.
The fill server 34 also includes a processing unit 78, a display 82, and a mass memory 84, all connected via a communication bus, or other communication device. The mass memory 84 generally comprises a RAM, ROM, and a permanent mass storage device, such as a hard disk drive, tape drive, optical drive, floppy disk drive, or combination thereof. The mass memory 84 stores an operating system 86 for controlling the operation of the fill server 34. It will be appreciated that this component may comprise a general-purpose server operating system as is known to those of ordinary skill in the art, such as UNIX, LINUX™, or Microsoft WINDOWS NT®.
The mass memory 84 also stores the program code and data for registering and logging-in users and for generating fill bundles in accordance with the present invention. More specifically, the mass memory 44 stores a fill bundle generator application program 88 formed in accordance with the present invention for creating a fill bundle corresponding to a merger of an electronic form and a user profile. The fill bundle generator application 88 comprises computer executable instructions which, when executed by the fill server 34, generates one or more WWW browser displays as will be explained in greater detail below. Mass memory 84 also stores a user registration and login application 90 for registering new users or logging registered users. The operation of the user registration and login application 90 will be described in greater detail as described below. It will be appreciated that these components may be stored on a computer-readable medium and loaded into the memory 84 of the fill server 34 using a drive mechanism associated with the computer-readable medium, such as a floppy, CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive.
Referring now to
With continued reference to
Regardless of how the link is activated, the user transmits at block 606 a user ID and password to the fill server 34 via an input screen and login sequence illustrated in
With continued reference to
A data entry interface is provided for allowing a new user to complete an initial user profile. The interface allows the user to enter his or her initial contact information such as first and last name, a contact e-mail address, a user ID, password 108, and the like. In one embodiment, the data entry interface entails the minimum amount of information required to be entered by the user to have a registration. As would be readily understood by one skilled in the art, the amount and type of data required in the initial user registration would vary dependent on the type of user and the services intended purpose.
The data entry interface further allows the user to indicate the level of security the user wishes to assign his or her profile information. In one embodiment, the user is presented with a choice of a limited, moderate or extensive privacy guard of the user information. The indication of one of these three levels will be then used by the fill server 34 to determine whether a form field will be automatically completed dependent on the proposed use by the form vendor. For example, some proposed uses of profile information include for personalization of a Web site, for completion of an activity such as an e-commerce transaction or for system administration. If a user selects an extensive security level, the fill server 34 would be prevented from using the user's profile to complete fields for Web site personalization, but could use the profile for completing fields required to effect an electronic transaction. As would be readily understood, various security configurations and/or intended uses could be incorporated into the registration process.
With reference to
With continued reference to
Having established a new profile, at block 816, the user is given the opportunity to complete additional fields of data within the profile that may be utilized to complete electronic forms.
In an alternative embodiment illustrated in
Cookies generally facilitate the customization of Web sites for users and are vital to the implementation of multiple, composite Web sites. Some resources assign temporary cookies, which expire at the end of a session or when the browser application is terminated. Other cookies, however, are assigned for a longer duration facilitating identification beyond a single network session. The more permanent cookies can be used to identify user-specific network history and to relay configuration preferences on a repeated basis. Generally, the transmittal of the information from the user computer system to the content provider is transparent to the user.
In one actual embodiment, at block 824, the fill server 34 deposits a temporary cookie which will only be valid during the current browser session. The use of temporary cookies prevent a second user from accessing the first user's login data once the first user terminates the browser session. Alternatively, the fill server 34 may deposit more permanent cookies in the WWW browser 70 for continuous access to the user login information. Upon setting the cookie at block 824, the routine 800 terminates at block 825.
Returning to decision block 804 of
With continued reference to
With continued reference to
Upon completion of the fields at block 612, or if the execution of the fill bundle has completed the necessary fields at block 610, the document browser computer 30 transfers the completed electronic form to the document server 32 at block 614. This is typically accomplished by the user indicating that he or she wishes to send the form by clicking on a “submit” or “send” button (or something similar).
In one actual embodiment, at block 614, the document browser computer 30 also sends a copy of the completed electronic form to the fill server 34. In this embodiment, the transfer can be transparent to the user or may require user approval. Accordingly, the fill server 34 accepts the data and verifies whether the user has entered data for fields not previously completed in the user's account, or whether the data stored on the user information database 42 needs to be updated. In this embodiment, as the user utilizes the fill server service to partially complete an electronic form, any additional data that is competed by the user after the fill bundle has been executed is automatically added to the user profile. Accordingly, continuous use of the fill server service from any document browser computer 30 maintains the user profile and allows for its expansion. The routine 600 then terminates at block 615.
In the one actual embodiment, the form signature of the document can include the URL of the form, descriptors of some or all of the form fields and/or descriptors of some or all of the required actions by the user. As would be generally understood, current Internet browser capabilities limit the amount of data transferred in any URL link to 2000 characters. Accordingly, in this embodiment, the present invention creates the signature of the electronic form such that it equals less than 2000 characters. However, as would be readily understood, the limitation of the number of characters allowed in a form signature may vary dependant on the capabilities of the Internet browser.
Upon receipt of the user cookie and form signature, the fill bundle generator application 88 utilizes the user cookie to retrieve a corresponding user profile from the user information server 40 at block 1504. In this illustration, the fill bundle generator application 88 passes the user ID and password to the user information server 40 which retrieves the user profile and returns it to the fill bundle generator application 88. Additionally, and essentially parallel, at block 1506, the fill bundle generator application 88 utilizes the electronic form signature to obtain a form map of the fields of the electronic form (e.g., from the form map database 38). A form map includes the association of the specific description of the fields on the form with a standard description of the user data. For example, a specific form requiring a user name may label a field requesting a user's first name as “First Name”. Additionally, the user profile data corresponding to this field is given the standard label as “user_name_first” in the user information database 42. Accordingly, the form map would associate the field “FirstName” with its standard field “user_name_first” allowing the fill bundle generator application 88 to return the appropriate user profile data. In this embodiment, the association of the specific description of the fields on the form with the standard description is referred to as a tuple.
In one actual embodiment, there are several methods of obtaining the form map. In a first method, the fill bundle generator application 88 passes the form signature to the form map server 36 which determines whether a form map for the electronic form already exists. If so, the form map is retrieved from the form map database 38 and transferred to the fill bundle generator application 88. The form maps stored in the form map database may be created by having a technician obtain and manually key in each form tuple. Although potentially time consuming, this approach increases the correctness of the form tuple association.
Often, however, electronic forms are modified on a more frequent basis. The modifications may include minor changes to the form, such how the fields are ordered or the presentation of the fields on the display. However, some modifications, such as the changing of the URL where the form is located or removing one or more fields, may alter the form sufficiently to render a previous form map incorrect or unrecognizable. In the event that the signature of an electronic form is modified sufficiently, or a manually typed form map has not been created, the fill bundle generator application 88 creates a new form map utilizing a form map generator. In this illustration, the form map generator obtains the descriptors of the form fields from the form signature and attempts to match the field descriptor with a standard field descriptor in an iterative manner. If the field descriptors do not match identically, the form map generator may make a “best guess” association utilizing factors such as partially matching field descriptor names, previous matching history and/or user preferences for best guess associations. An illustrative form map generating method and structure is described in commonly owned U.S. Nonprovisional patent application Ser. No. 09/357,530 Intelligent Mapping of Field Names in an Electronic Form with Standard FIELD NAMES, and filed Jul. 19, 1999, which is specifically incorporated herein by reference. As would be readily understood by someone skilled in the relevant art, alternative field mapping methods and structures would be considered to be within the scope of the present invention. The resulting form map may be stored in the form map database 38 for future use.
Having obtained the form map at 1506 and the raw user data at block 1504, the fill bundle generator application 88 merges the form map and the raw user data at block 1508.
With reference to
At decision block 1710, a determination is made whether the user data parsed from the completed form matches the user data stored in the user profile. If it does not match, or if the user profile does not contain data for the identified field, the user profile data is updated at block 1712. At decision block 1714, a determination is made whether there exists any additional fields on the form to be parsed and inspected. If so, the process returns to block 1710. If, however, no further fields need to be parsed and inspected, the routine is completed at block 1716. By updating the user profile as electronic forms are submitted, the fill bundle generator application 88 maintains current user data and allows the user to expand the profile by filling out more electronic forms. As would be readily understood, the updating sub-routine is independent from and not considered essential to the other aspects of the invention.
Although the present invention has been described in terms of utilizing shippable code which merges into the electronic form to be completed, it may be possible to implement some or all of the functions of the shippable code by signing the code. In the alternative embodiment, the fill bundle would be transferred to the document browser computer 30 as signed JAVA™ code segments and would interact with form application windows to complete the fields. The creation and execution of signed JAVA™ applications is known to those skilled in the art. Nevertheless, from a user perspective a fill bundle would still be selected and dragged to an electronic form to initiate the completion of one or fields. The use of signed applications would be considered to be within the scope of the present invention.
By utilizing shippable code segments which are presented to a user as a graphical/textual representation, the present invention facilities the completion of one or more fields of an electronic form. Moreover, utilizing standard WWW Web browser functionality, the present invention facilities a user's access to personal information from any number of computer systems without requiring the user to install or maintain software applications and without requiring cross-communication between computer systems.
While the preferred embodiment of the invention has been illustrated and described, it will be appreciated that various changes can be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.
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|U.S. Classification||715/224, 715/769|
|Cooperative Classification||G06F21/36, G06F21/6245, G06F3/0486, G06F17/243|
|European Classification||G06F3/0486, G06F21/62B5, G06F21/36, G06F17/24F|
|Jun 16, 2000||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: INFOSPACE, INC., WASHINGTON
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:SIMONS, GEOFFREY W.;REEL/FRAME:010880/0757
Effective date: 20000616
|Feb 23, 2004||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: AMERICAN EXPRESS TRAVEL RELATED SERVICES COMPANY,
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:INFOSPACE, INC.;REEL/FRAME:014990/0746
Effective date: 20031210
|Aug 18, 2010||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: INFOSPACE, INC., WASHINGTON
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|Aug 22, 2011||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: ZANNI ASSETS LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY, DELAWARE
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:AMERICAN EXPRESS TRAVEL RELATED SERVICES COMPANY, INC.;REEL/FRAME:026786/0990
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Year of fee payment: 8
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